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Study Finds Rocketdyne Cancer Risk

<-- LA Rocketdyne Nuclear Meltdown

Download: UCLA Final Report

Source: LA Times

Study Finds Rocketdyne Cancer Risk

Health: Workers exposed to radiation at Santa Susana plant have greater chance of dying from the disease, UCLA researchers say. Company calls the conclusions flawed. September 12, 1997|MACK REED and THOMAS H. MAUGH II, TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Rocketdyne workers who were exposed to radiation during decades of nuclear testing at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory near Simi Valley have an increased risk of dying of cancer, according to a UCLA report released Thursday.

Rocketdyne immediately criticized the report through a panel of scientists who reviewed it, and called its conclusions overly broad. "Their data doesn't support their conclusions," said Michael Ginevan, a biostatistician who reviewed the study for Rocketdyne.

For the Record

Los Angeles Times Saturday September 13, 1997 Home Edition Part A Page 4 Foreign Desk 2 inches; 39 words Type of Material: Correction Types of cancer--An article in Friday's editions incorrectly stated the types of increased cancer mortality risks among Rocketdyne workers who were monitored internally for radiation exposure. Workers were at higher risk of death from cancers of the mouth, throat and stomach.

But a state-appointed oversight panel of scientists and community members endorsed the report without dissent, saying the UCLA conclusions are grounds for a similar study of cancer deaths in the neighborhoods surrounding the 2,668-acre field lab.

"The results stand, and they're very strong," said David Michaels, a professor of epidemiology at the City University of New York Medical School who serves on the oversight panel.

The UCLA study of 4,563 past and present Rocketdyne workers was launched nearly five years ago after concern about radiation work at the lab prompted neighbors and environmentalists to push for research.


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"All available evidence from this study indicates that occupational exposure to ionizing radiation among nuclear workers at Rocketdyne . . . has increased the risk of dying from cancers of the blood and lymph system," the UCLA study concluded. The report also cited increased risk of mouth, throat and stomach cancer.

The study, headed by epidemiologist Hal Morgenstern and other staff scientists at UCLA's School of Public Health, found nine more cancer deaths than the expected 91 among workers who were exposed to high levels of radiation from sources outside the body. It found 15 more than the expected 40 among those who breathed in or ingested radioactive materials.

However, the researchers found that the overall cancer death rate at Rocketdyne was lower than that of the general population, a phenomenon known as the "healthy worker" effect, because people who have jobs are generally healthier than those who don't.

The study also found that cumulative low-level radiation exposure is more dangerous than currently believed under U.S. and international regulatory standards. Based on the observed relationship between cancer deaths and exposures, the Rocketdyne study estimates that cumulative exposure to low-level radiation is six to eight times more dangerous than allowed under current standards, which were extrapolated from studies of atomic bomb survivors.

Download: UCLA Final Report

<-- LA Rocketdyne Nuclear Meltdown

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